"I AM a friend of your husband's," he said, bowing very low, as if anxious t_onceal his frightened face, "and also of Vassily Fedotitch. I hear Alexa_mitritch is asleep and not very well. Unfortunately, I have brought bad news.
I have already told Vassily Fedotitch something about it and am afrai_ecisive measures will have to be taken.
Paklin's voice broke continually, like that of a man who was tortured b_hirst. The items of news he had to communicate were certainly very unpleasan_nes. Some peasants had seized Markelov and brought him to the town. Th_tupid clerk had betrayed Golushkin, who was now under arrest, he in his tur_as betraying everything and everybody, wanted to go over to the Orthodo_hurch, had offered to present a portrait of the Bishop Filaret to the publi_chool, and had already given five thousand roubles to be distributed amon_rippled soldiers. There was not a shadow of a doubt that he had informe_gainst Nejdanov; the police might make a raid upon the factory any moment.
Vassily Fedotitch was also in danger. "As for myself," Paklin added, "I a_urprised that I'm still allowed to roam at large, although it's true tha_'ve never really interested myself in practical politics or taken part in an_chemes. I have taken advantage of this oversight on the part of the police t_ut you on your guard and find out what had best be done to avoid an_npleasantness."
Mariana listened to Paklin to the end. She did not seem alarmed; on the othe_and she was quite calm. But something must really be done! She fixed her eye_n Solomin.
He was also composed; only around his lips there was the faintest movement o_he muscles; but it was not his habitual smile.
Solomin understood the meaning of Mariana's glance; she waited for him to sa_hat had best be done.
"It's a very awkward business," he began; "I don't think it would do Nejdano_ny harm to go into hiding for a time. But, by the way, how did you get t_now that he was here, Mr. Paklin?"
Paklin gave a wave of the hand.
"A certain individual told me. He had seen him preaching about th_eighbourhood and had followed him, though with no evil intent. He is _ympathiser. Excuse me," he added, turning to Mariana, "is it true that ou_riend Nejdanov has been very … very careless?"
"It's no good blaming him now," Solomin began again. "What a pity we can'_alk things over with him now, but by tomorrow he will be all right again. Th_olice don't do things as quickly as you seem to imagine. You will have to g_way with him, Mariana Vikentievna."
"Certainly," she said resolutely, a lump rising in her throat.
"Yes," Solomin said, "we must think it over, consider ways and means."
"May I make a suggestion?" Paklin began. "It entered my head as I was comin_long here. I must tell you, by the way, that I dismissed the cabman from th_own a mile away from here."
"What is your suggestion?" Solomin asked.
"Let me have some horses at once and I'll gallop off to the Sipiagins."
"To the Sipiagins!" Mariana exclaimed. "Why?"
"You will see."
"But do you know them?"
"Not at all! But listen. Do think over my suggestion thoroughly. It seems t_e a brilliant one. Markelov is Sipiagin's brother- in-law, his wife'_rother, isn't that so? Would this gentleman really make no attempt to sav_im? And as for Nejdanov himself, granting that Mr. Sipiagin is most awfull_ngry with him, still he has become a relation of his by marrying you. And th_anger hanging over our friend—"
"I am not married," Mariana observed.
"What? Haven't managed it all this time! Well, never mind," he added, "one ca_retend a little. All the same, you will get married directly. There seem_othing else to be done! Take into consideration the fact that up until no_ipiagin has not persecuted you, which shows him to be a man capable of _ertain amount of generosity. I see that you don't like the expression— well, a certain amount of pride. Why should we not take advantage of it? Conside_or yourself!"
Mariana raised her head and passed her hand through her air.
"You can take advantage of whatever you like for Markelov, Mr. Paklin… or fo_ourself, but Alexai and I do not desire the protection or patronage of Mr.
Sipiagin. We did not leave his house only to go knocking at his door a_eggars. The pride and generosity of Mr. Sipiagin and his wife have nothin_hatever to do with us!"
"Such sentiments are extremely praiseworthy," Paklin replied (" How utterl_rushed!" he thought to himself), "though, on the other hand, if you think o_t … However, I am ready to obey you. I will exert myself only on Markelov'_ccount, our good Markelov! I must say, however, that he is not his bloo_elation, but only related to him through his wife—while you—"
"Mr Paklin, I beg of you!"
"I'm sorry… Only I can't tell you how disappointing it is— Sipiagin is a ver_nfluential man."
"Have you no fears for yourself?" Solomin asked.
Paklin drew himself up.
"There are moments when one must not think of oneself!" he said proudly. An_e was thinking of himself all the while. Poor little man! he wanted to ru_way as fast as he could. On the strength of the service rendered him, Sipiagin might, if need be, speak a word in his favour. For he too—say what h_ould—was implicated, he had listened and had chattered a little himself.
"I don't think your suggestion is a bad one," Solomin observed at last,"
although there is not much hope of success. At any rate there is no harm i_rying."
"Of course not. Supposing they pitch me out by the scruff of the neck, wha_arm will it do?"
"That won't matter very much" ("Merci," Paklin thought to himself). "What i_he time? " Solomin asked. " Five o'clock. We mustn't dawdle. You shall hav_he horses directly. Pavel!"
But instead of Pavel, Nejdanov appeared in the doorway. He staggered an_teadied himself on the doorpost. He opened his mouth feebly, looked aroun_ith his glassy eyes, comprehending nothing. Paklin was the first to approac_im.
"Aliosha!" he exclaimed, "don't you know me?" Nejdanov stared at him, blinkin_lowly.
"Paklin? " he said at last.
"Yes, it is I. Aren't you well?"
"No … I'm not well. But why are you here?"
"Why?" … But at this moment Mariana stealthily touched Paklin on the elbow. H_urned around and saw that she was making signs to him. "Oh, yes! " h_uttered. "Yes… . You see, Aliosha," he added aloud, "I've come here upon _ery important matter and must go away at once. Solomin will tell you al_bout it—and Mariana—Mariana Vikentievna. They both fully approve of what I a_oing to do. The thing concerns us all. No, no," he put in hastily in respons_o a look and gesture from Mariana. "The thing concerns Markelov; our mutua_riend Markelov; it concerns him alone. But I must say goodbye now. Ever_inute is precious. Goodbye, Aliosha … We'll see each other again sometime.
Vassily Fedotitch, can you come with me to see about the horses?"
"Certainly. Mariana, I wanted to ask you to be firm, but that is no_ecessary. You're a brick!"
"Yes, yes," Paklin chimed in, "you are just like a Roman maiden in Cato'_ime! Cato of Utica! We must be off, Vassily Fedotitch, come along!"
"There's plenty of time," Solomin observed with a faint smile. Nejdanov stoo_n one side to allow them room to pass out, but there was the same vacan_xpression in his eyes. After they had gone he took a step or two forward an_at down on a chair facing Mariana.
"Alexai," she began, "everything has been found out. Markelov has been seize_y the very peasants he was trying to better, and is now under arrest in thi_own, and so is the merchant with whom you dined once. I dare say the polic_ill soon be here for us too. Paklin has gone to Sipiagin."
"Why?" Nejdanov asked in a scarcely audible whisper. But there was a keen loo_n his eyes—his face assumed it's habitual expression. The stupor had left hi_nstantly.
"To try and find out if he would be willing to intercede."
Nejdanov sat up straight.
"No, for Markelov. He wanted to ask him to intercede for us too … but _ouldn't let him. Have I done well, Alexai?
"Have you done well?" Nejdanov asked and without rising from his chair, stretched out his arms to her. "Have you done well?" he repeated, drawing he_lose to him, and pressing his face against her waist, suddenly burst int_ears.
"What is the matter? What is the matter with you?" Mariana exclaimed. And a_n the day when he had fallen on his knees before her, trembling an_reathless in a torrent of passion, she laid both her hands on his tremblin_ead. But what she felt now was quite different from what she had felt then.
Then she had given herself up to him—had submitted to him and only waited t_ear what he would say next, but now she pitied him and only wondered what sh_ould do to calm him.
"What is the matter with you?" she repeated. "Why are you crying? Not becaus_ou came home in a somewhat… strange condition? It can't be! Or are you sorr_or Markelov—afraid for me, for yourself? Or is it for our lost hopes? You di_ot really expect that everything would go off smoothly!"
Nejdanov suddenly lifted his bead.
"It's not that, Mariana," he said, mastering his sobs by an effort, "I am no_fraid for either of us … but … I am sorry.
"For you, Mariana! I am sorry that you should have united your fate with a ma_ho is not worthy of you."
"If only because he can be crying at a moment as this!"
"It is not you but your nerves that are crying!"
"You can't separate me from my nerves! But listen, Mariana, look me in th_ace; can you tell me now that you do not regret—"
"That you ran away with me."
"And would you go with me further? Anywhere?"
"Really? Mariana … really?
"Yes. I have given you my word, and so long as you remain the man I love—_hall not take it back."
Nejdanov remained sitting on the chair, Mariana standing before him. His arm_ere about her waist, her's were resting on his shoulders.
"Yes, no," Nejdanov thought … "when I last held her in my arms like this, he_ody was at least motionless, but now I can feel it—against her will, perhaps— shrink away from me gently!"
He loosened his arms and Mariana did in fact move away from him a little.
"If that's so," he said aloud, "if we must run away from here before th_olice find us … I think it wouldn't be a bad thing if we were to get married.
We may not find another such accommodating priest as Father Zosim!"
"I am quite ready," Mariana observed.
Nejdanov gave her a searching glance.
"A Roman maiden!" he exclaimed with a sarcastic half-smile. "What a feeling o_uty!"
Mariana shrugged her shoulders.
"We must tell Solomin."
"Yes … Solomin … " Nejdanov drawled out. "But he is also in danger. The polic_ould arrest him too. It seems to me that he also took part in things and kne_ven more than we did."
"I don't know about that," Mariana observed. "He never speaks of himself!
"Not as I do!" Nejdanov thought. "That was what she meant to imply. Solomin … Solomin!" he added after a pause. "Do you know, Mariana, I should not be a_ll sorry if you had linked your fate forever with a man like Solomin … o_ith Solomin himself."
Mariana gave Nejdanov a penetrating glance in her turn. "You had no right t_ay that," she observed at last.
"I had no right! In what sense am I to take that? Does it mean that you lov_e, or that I ought not to touch upon this question generally speaking?"
"You had no right," Mariana repeated.
Nejdanov lowered his head.
"Mariana!" he exclaimed in a slightly different tone of voice.
"If I were to ask you now … now … you know what … But no, I will not as_nything of you . . goodbye."
He got up and went out; Mariana did not detain him. Nejdanov sat down on th_ouch and covered his face with his hands. He was afraid of his own thought_nd tried to stop thinking. He felt that some sort of dark, underground han_ad clutched at the very root of his being and would not let him go. He kne_hat the dear, sweet creature he had left in the next room would not come ou_o him and he dared not go to her. What for? What would he say to her?
Firm, rapid footsteps made him open his eyes. Solomin passed through his room, knocked at Mariana's door, and went in.
"Honour where honour is due!" Nejdanov whispered bitterly.